Monday, 16 March 2015

Modern Man - from a ladies perspective.

So we all know what a minefield dating is these days - right?  Everyone online lies or at least exaggerates their good points, leaving the bad stuff out - that's advertising I suppose.  Guys send rude pictures, or ask you to send rude pictures.  They make outrageous requests before knowing your name.  They are only after one thing.  Online dating, though much more widely used these days, is getting a bad rep among us more discerning ladies looking for a genuine relationship.  It even appears to be changing the way we have relationships; where we used to have some dates, getting to know each other over time etc, it all seems to be about hook-ups lately.  Instant gratification. And I'm not sure that's a good thing even for the younger of us!

So are all men misogynists now?

When you listen to media and tales from friends of their misadventures, it would seem a large proportion of men have forgotten how to behave with a lady.  Or perhaps they are not being taught at all?  They say they love women, but what they love is for women to act the way they want and expect.  Is this the fault of women-kind?  As mothers not teaching our boys respect for women, or girlfriends putting up with bad behaviour.  Are we letting men get away with being bad?

Or does it run deeper?  Is this a natural reaction to women gaining more power in society and men, feeling threatened, needing to put us back in our place?

I am all for equality, but I do not wish to undermine the role of the male.  I like men and believe firmly that society needs both the sexes to function in a good and healthy way.  Lets face it though - the chaps have been running things (or thinking they have) for so long now that it must have come as a surprise to learn that us ladies are just as capable of thinking, managing, making, healing, theorising and even fighting.  Are the chaps with perhaps less insight finding this difficult to deal with and rebelling a little?

Actually I don't think it's just the guys who are struggling with the new balance of power.  I think a lot of ladies have taken it the wrong way too.  For example, while posing naked may seem empowering and means a pretty lady can earn a great load of cash, it's not really what gaining more power and equality for women was all about.  More like just playing into a dominant male societies hands.  The early suffragettes would be turning in their graves.  It's just my opinion, but I don't think this is putting equality for women to good use.

In fact the sexualisation of everything these days is a whole other post, but I wonder if it's secretly encouraged by governments to keep people occupied with more carnal thoughts rather than actually noticing the balls-up they are making of running the place?!  "Keep them busy with the latest celebrity sex tape so we can get on and sell off the NHS".  Am I cynical?  Maybe, but it's the way things are that have made me that way.

Society used to have firm rules which seemed to keep most people happy and polite.  With the braking down of those values it's almost as though anything goes, and people are unhappy and impolite as a result.  I'm not saying we shouldn't have progressed, but I do think we are in a state of flux at the moment - kind of in between change happening and people accepting it - and I sincerely hope that common decency will resume shortly and leave us all in a better world.

So chaps - it's not OK to send ladies photos of your tackle without permission.  It's not the norm for sex to all be about S&M - if you get off on hurting others, or being hurt by them there's something not quite right.  It's still polite to open a door for any fellow human being.  Women are not possessions, but have real feelings - as I think do you, underneath it all.  And it's really not OK to not listen when a lady says 'NO'.  Try not to bring trauma from your last relationship into a new one - we are no more all the same than you are.  Don't tell us you love us, then decide we just don't fit into your life.  (And these are just some problems from the western world - don't get me started on female genital mutilation, or subjugating women by dictating what they wear).  Women are sensitive, emotional beings by nature - that's not a bad thing - it allows us to love and nurture your children, even when they give us no sleep and wreck our bodies.

Please men - treat us with more respect.  We are not a mysterious alien race; we are just like you, with different bits.  Talk to us; care for us and nurture our sensitive nature - it might just care for you when you are old and infirm.  We may not be perfect either, but we want our daughters to grow up in a world where women are celebrated, not victimised and sexualised half the time, and ignored the other half.  Yes we are different and as a general rule there are things men are better at and things women are better at, but no one should claim that one is better than the other.  Our differences mean we can work perfectly as a team - as the natural order of things decrees.  Men, it does not immasculate you to be kind to women.  It may be my age, but I for one am not attracted to the kind of man who thinks it was ever OK to 'treat them mean'.  I don't like a bad boy, a cheater or a liar.  Give me a really modern man who isn't threatened by a strong woman, who has manners, who admits when he's wrong, and who is kind, fights injustice and stands up for women's rights and equality.

If any such men exist, and are single - please do get in touch ;)

Friday, 6 March 2015

Yes I know it's been over 9 years years but ...

I haven't written for quite some time here as I wasn't really sure what direction to take.  I've brought things up to date with my story and there are only so many times you will want to hear about something that happened quite a long time ago.  So - I am thinking perhaps that observations on life from my widowed point of view might work, and keeping in touch with the idea that life continues after loss, but that the loss never really leaves us completely.

In the last 12 months I have been settling down again into singledom (and by that I mean I've been single for the last year).  My last relationship only lasted 10 months, but was one I had thought would last a lot longer.  I had started to believe I'd found something real.  So, it's taken me a while to adjust.  I'm not saying I have stopped living, on the contrary, I've been pretty busy, but things have somewhat been overshadowed by the loss of that relationship.  And the trouble with having suffered a major loss, such as being widowed, is that each and every subsequent loss takes you back to those emotions you thought you had long since left in the past.  And this is perhaps something others don't understand.

I'd like to think I have reached a point now where, while I would be more than happy to meet someone, it doesn't consume me as a quest.  I don't do dating sites any more and I'm not the sort to be 'out on the pull'.  I have lots to fit into my time what with the swim training, writing course, work, daughter, house to clean, mouths to feed etc etc etc.  I'm not moping around or anything (well most of the time).  But when people think that you are now fine and unaffected by the grief of the past, they are wrong.  It can rear up it's head at any time - often with no or little warning.  You could be cooking dinner or hoovering, just going about your day when you suddenly feel overwhelmed by the realisation that your partner is gone forever.  Some things are more emotive than others - music, films or dramas.  But other times you might be merely chopping carrots or washing the dishes.

I think the reason behind the little things mattering so much is that those are the real building blocks of our lives.  We are often told - it's the little things that count, so when you don't have your partner to share them with any more it really matters.  Life's simple pleasures are best shared is perhaps another cliche, but true and you especially realise this when you don't have someone special to share them with.

I read a lot of comments from my friends in WAY ( about insensitivity's from others towards them.  Comments made in passing, not thought through, which touch a nerve or seem uncaring.  People who think the widowed person is OK now, have 'got over it' or just perhaps people are too plain caught up in their own issues to see anothers pain.  Perhaps having been widowed makes us more sensitive to these things - but really I don't think any of us really see what goes on beneath a persons facade.  We learn young to build walls to protect our vulnerability.  Children can say the most hurtful things after all, and so they learn to build up thick skins so as to not let things affect them so much - or at least so the hurt doesn't show.  My daughter is going through this process and constantly talks about all the little dramas that go on among friends.  Grief can bring those walls crashing down and it can take a lot of time to build them up again - and I think that many widowed people perhaps can't build a solid wall, but only one with gaps that can let in some of the hurt.  Not the most original metaphor, but hopefully it explains how it can feel.

The other thing is that the emotions can be so variable.  Day to day, even hour to hour a mood can change beyond all recognition.  Sometimes they burst out, overflowing in a tirade of words or a gush of tears.  We all need this outlet - widowed or not - I think.  Coping with modern life - which has become so much more complicated than it needs to be - seems to put quite a strain on a persons emotions.  And as we are all different, we all cope in different ways.

We all have our cross to bear (oh look, more cliche!) and perhaps we would all benefit from just slowing down a little, having a thought for someone else's feelings and what they are having to deal with.  I know I benefit from this.  We are very good at seeing how another persons life is better or easier than ours, but maybe we don't look so much at how they struggle too.  Often you don't need to look far beneath the facade to see a turbulence underneath.  WAY use the example of a swan.  A serene bird, so regal, who glides across the water seemingly effortlessly.  But take a look under the water and you will see two powerful legs, paddling away furiously to keep up the facade of perfection above the water.

I think what I'm trying to say is, life can't be really tough, but there are usually glimmers of hope at least, and when we compare ourselves to others it can be in a positive or negative way.  So rather than say "Look at how much they have, I wish I had all that", perhaps we need to look deeper and say "Look how hard their life is, I'm glad for what I have." 

As an example, I went to see The Theory of Everything last night - and came away feeling thankful for my health.  It was very grounding to watch someone struggle so much against the odds and despite everything, come out winning.  There is no time limit on grief, but there's so much good we can do in spite of the burdens we bear.  Finding a purpose could be the salvation of many, perhaps.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Finding a New Me

There are certainly many aspects of me that Robin would still recognise today; but equally there are many he wouldn't.  When you lose someone it can take a while to untangle yourself from the couple you were.  I was with Robin for well over 14 years, and from the age of 18 when so much of who you are is yet to form.  You can't be with someone that long and not become a part of them, and they a part of you.  You change and alter to suit the new entity of the relationship.  Not in a bad way, just as is necessary for a harmonious life. 

When we were first together we bickered like siblings - each trying to find their role in the relationship, none wanting to give in.  Eventually that turns into a firm knowledge of the other and a new closeness perhaps - if you are willing to adjust and compromise.  Robin and I finished our transition from adolescence into adulthood together.  This made for a close bond which was special and can never be replaced (though I'm not saying another bond couldn't be equally special in it's own way).

Since he died I've had to untangle myself from the person I was in that relationship - and unwillingly too.  I fought the untangling as much as I fought for my voice in the pairing to begin with.  It's been a long slow progress as tomorrow is the 9th anniversary of Robin's accident.  I still sometimes panic and run to the shelter of that past version of me, but it's no shelter any more.  Time has taken it's toll and back there I am only a half person.

As time passes and the emptiness left by grief begins to fill with new experiences you begin to reshape yourself.  It's tentative at first - I went back to feeling like a teenager again on many occasions; having to remind myself that I was an adult and had a right to a voice - but it will eventually gain momentum, because as physics dictates - matter will rush to fill a void.

So the new me is finding her way in the world, overcoming the most awful setbacks and filling that void with new things.  New people, new hobbies and new belongings.  One of the best new hobbies I have found has been open water swimming (and it came hand in hand with a bunch of great new people too).  I moved to Bournemouth to be by the sea and I still love it every time I go down to the beach.  A couple of years ago I found a group of swimmers I could join for sea swimming - always better to swim with friends and be safe.  At first I would just have a short dip occasionally and didn't take it too seriously.  However, one of my new friends has had a dream to swim the English Channel for some long time.  Now she is a very determined lady and her enthusiasm and love of the sport has caught me in it's currents.  I agreed this year to be on her relay team and train to swim across the channel in 2016.  This excites me and scares me in equal measure - but this new me who is emerging from the chaos seems to quite like a challenge and testing herself.  On Saturday past this new, more determined version of me swam a mile, twice, in Bude Sea Pool to help save the pool, but also as part of a personal journey to save herself.  So easily the sea of grief can overwhelm those affected, but I have instead chosen to fight the actual, tangible sea.  I feel this gives me a much more fair chance of winning.  This task is more achievable, and each time I reach a new goal I believe a little more in my new self and where she is taking me (sometimes dragging me, kicking and screaming).  The old me would have been too timid to do this.  This latest version of me is emerging as a stronger and more resilient being. 

Perhaps it's a journey we all take.  Each relationship teaches us new things about ourselves.  But a long term relationship that was ripped apart by tragedy leaving chaos in it's wake is bound to take a longer time to unravel eventually allowing that person to gather up the bits of them that were laid bare and put them back together in some kind of acceptable order.  This mostly regathered version of me is where I am at - and she's working on a blank canvas - coming to terms with the idea that she can be anything she puts her mind (and body) to - including being moulded into a channel swimmer!

I'd like to believe that Robin would be as proud of this new me as I am of myself.  My friends have made me more brave, but ultimately it's me alone who will have to train and drive myself towards my goals and build up this new and improved version of me, and that is OK.  Who I am as just me is OK.  I don't need another person to make that so, just my own approval and a little determination and plenty of self belief.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

A Purpose - or Lack Thereof!

I'm happy to admit to quite often feeling lost.  I don't think I'm alone in this, nor do I think only widowed people feel this way.  Perhaps it is a result of our modern society with all it's myriad choices.  Or perhaps being a single parent has something to do with it.

The thing is, it's self perpetuating.  You may start off in life quite sure of your choices, or you may not.  But every time you change your mind or find a new interest or fail at something and lose a little confidence - it adds to the inner confusion about just what exactly it is you should be doing with your life.  Even if you don't fail, things can get dull and repetitive.

Since I was about 6 I wanted to be a writer.  But I didn't think I could do that as a career because it seemed to difficult to make a living out of.  So I started turning to other interests, and as I am a person with many interests the pile of things I enjoyed grew and I found I could build enthusiasm, at least temporarily, for most things.  I went through years of wanting to be a vet because of watching All Creatures Great and Small.  I came to choose options and listened to a careers officer who though economics would be good for me!  It wasn't.  I was choosing a degree course and followed the advice - do something you really love; and so I chose a degree in Geology and Cartography.  After all I was doing Geology A level and had loved maps for years.

That degree did get me quite far.  I did OK, got a couple of related jobs and set up my own Cartographic freelance business.  I still do this and I still have some enthusiasm for it too.  However, my real passion, I think, is still in books and writing.  I have started writing a couple of novels, but something always stops me.  Is it simply life getting in the way, or is it something bigger?

Well of course there is a lot of fear of failure.  In writing this blog I bare my soul to the world and that is pretty scary.  I have only had very positive feedback - thank you - but this is a mini project, not a business or money maker.  What happens when I try to sell my work?

This is one side of my issue; the lack of purpose.  The other side is: who am I doing this for?  I have to make a living to bring up my daughter and have a few treats.  I can't rely on others for help all the time and I want to be financially independent.  But I can't help but feel: what is it all for?  Make money just to spend it?  Have nice things?  Go on holidays?  Feel fulfilled?  Accomplished?

The point is, without a partner there to spur me on, encourage me and generally make things worth working for, it all feels a little empty.  I know it should be enough to do it for myself and for my daughter, but I can't help but still feel there is still this other great hole in our lives.  Another reason to work hard, to aspire for a better life and to make it all worthwhile.

Yes I want to be successful.  I want to sell novels or just write copy and make a living.  But how do I find my mojo?  How do I keep up my passion through the long days and difficult times?  Without someone there to share it all a firm purpose is a tricky thing to grasp and then keep hold of.  For now I do it all for Sophie and me - to try and obtain a little piece of independence and security.  I can only hope that at some point in the future I find my missing mojo and the strength to keep on getting up and facing reality - along with the energy that appears to have been sapped by the lack-of-purpose monster.

It's not that things are all bad, it's just they aren't how I would wish.  But Life so seldom is and I need to just get on with it.  So I'm off in search of my mojo - because it's not going to come and find me - and I will try my best to enjoy the process.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014


In the news at the moment there is so much distress.  With the ongoing problems in Israel and Palestine and the Ukrainian rebels shooting down innocents, I wonder if many of us have lost touch of what humanity means.

My dictionary says humanity is “the human race”.  To me this implies one race, one people.  It also says “the quality of being human”, then “kindness or mercy”.  At the moment there doesn’t seem to be a lot of humanity going on. 

80 children were killed in the plane in Ukraine, along with so many other loved ones; fathers, brothers, mothers, sisters, daughters and sons, uncles and aunts.  All those families that are now grieving because of politics.  Because a group of angry people decided it was OK to use such weapons because they were ‘freedom fighters’!  As far as I can tell the Ukraine government were not doing anything unjust to these people.  It’s all about politics: a change in government that they didn’t want.  But what gives them the right to take away other people’s lives in the name of their cause?  Are we not all equal as human beings?

And Israel, who seem to have the west’s politicians on their side, feel it's acceptable to massacre innocents in Palestine in the name of punishing Hamas.  I studied that conflict in school nearly 30 years ago.  It’s been going on since the 50’s when we gave land to a people that wasn’t ours to give.  Is it not time for the west to admit they were wrong and try to find a proper solution?  How many more human beings will be killed in the name of political cause?

From the point of view of a widowed person I understand loss.  My loss was through an accident and difficult as that was to accept, it was not really anyone’s fault.  It was caused through a bad decision and a reflex reaction.  Many of the widows and widowers I have met since, have also lost partners due to accidents, and many to disease, some to misconduct, some to suicide, a few due to conflict abroad or murder.  But when another human being takes away your loved one for political cause – often when they were nothing to do with the enemy – that is truly a criminal and unjust act. 

It deeply saddens me to think of all the hundreds of people grieving because of the selfish behaviour of a few who have managed to place themselves in power, or in control of terrible weapons.  And for what?  WE ARE ALL HUMAN.  WE ARE ONE RACE.  So why do we insist on squabbling over land, boundaries, political affiliations.  We are capable of so much more.  If we could only put aside our differences and see what we all have in common.  If all the energy that is put into hatred of our fellows, could be redirected to solving greater problems, such as climate change or research to cure disease, just think how much more we could achieve. 

There are too many of us for this planet, and I suppose we are seeing geographic theory in action.  When a population increases then disease, famine, drought and war will reduce it.  That’s the theory.  But if humanity would start acting human, kind and merciful, and work together I truly believe there would be no stopping us – we could reach for the stars and perhaps even evolve a little in the process.  Something that has barely happened since we emerged in our current form.

At the moment though I hold little hope that this will happen in my lifetime or even that of my daughter or any children she may have in the future.  There is too much bitterness and hatred.  We haven’t yet learned how to co-exsist with anyone who is even minutely different from us.  Even in liberal western countries hatred abounds.  Hatred of anyone different from us; anyone who doesn’t conform or happens to be ‘foreign’.  We think too small.  We can’t yet see the bigger picture – the endless possibilities that lie within out grasp – if only we could put our hatred and fear and bitterness aside. 

I fear for the future of the humanity.  But mostly I am sad for all those new people who have to grieve because of others hatred, greed, fear, politics, and for their lack of humanity. 

Monday, 12 May 2014

Single Parenting

There is a particular image painted by Government and Media around single parents.  They would have you believe that we are all teenagers trying to get a council house and just sponging off society.  Well here are a few facts and figures courtesy of Gingerbread (single parent charity):
  • Just over a quarter (26 per cent) of households with dependent children are single parent families, and there are 2 million single parents in Britain today. This figure has remained consistent since the mid-1990’s
  • Less than 2 per cent of single parents are teenagers
  • The median age of single parents is 38.1
  • Around half of single parents had their children within marriage – 49 per cent are separated from marriage, divorced or widowed
  • 60.2 per cent of single parents are in work, up 15.5 percentage points since 1997
  • The employment rate for single parents varies depending on the age of their youngest child. Once their children are 12 or over, single parents’ employment rate is similar to, or higher than, the employment rate for mothers in couples (71 per cent of single parents whose child is 11-15 are in work)
  • There are 3 million children living in a single parent household (23% per cent of all dependent children)
  • Around 8 per cent of single parents (186,000) are fathers 
  • The average duration of single parenthood is around 5 years 
  • Only 6.5 per cent of all births are registered alone, and 10 per cent are registered to two parents who live apart 
  • Single fathers are more likely to be widowed than single mothers (12 per cent of single fathers are widowed, compared with 5 per cent of single mothers), and their children tend to be older 
  • Just under half of couples divorcing in 2009 had at least one child aged under 16. Over a fifth (21 per cent) of the children in 2009 were under five and 63 per cent were under eleven 

Not quite the story you hear in the tabloids is it?!

People may have their own reasons for being quick to judge, but we have to accept that the presence of single parent families in society is really just part of life.  And families where one parent has died and who therefore have not made a conscious decision to become single parent families still form a sizeable chunk of the total.  We know times are tough for everyone on low incomes at the moment, but with changing benefit systems and expensive childcare, it really is tough on single parents.

And it's not just the financial pressures of course.  Weighing up working more with being there more isn't easy.  When there are problems; ill health, behaviour issues or just exhaustion, there is no back-up from a partner.  No-one to take over and give you a rest.  You are on duty 24-7 and it often seems as though there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

Having said this, children in a widowed family at least have some stability.  Another fact from the Gingerbread site says: "Parental separation by itself is not considered predictive of poor outcomes in children. Parental conflict has been identified as a key mediating variable in producing negative outcomes in children. A comparison between couple families experiencing high levels of conflict with single parent families found that children fared less well in conflicted couple families, demonstrating that family functioning has a greater impact than family structure in contributing to child outcomes".  In other words, an unstable home with two parents not getting on is worse for children than a single parent home on the whole.

So the children of single parent families are likely to grow up to be rounded characters after all.  Even though the growing up may come a little earlier as they are given more to deal with and some of the innocence of childhood may be lost.  With grieving children there is a terrible extra issue to deal with - the loss of a parent. 

Sophie has mostly been quite matter of fact while talking about her father.  We have always talked about him openly and I encourage her to ask questions - though these don't always pop up at the most convenient times!  But she never met her dad and so perhaps doesn't feel the same loss as other bereaved children.  To her, living with just me is normal.  But that's not to say she doesn't feel the loss.  She sees her friends with their dads and at school she often feels like the only child in her situation.  The other side of it is she knows how to get around me and that there is no other parent to tell her off and be back-up to mummy.  She also enjoys a few extras from the family perhaps - though that could be because she is the only grandchild and maybe not just because her daddy isn't here to spoil her himself.

I actually believe - though hard on children - it's a worse deal being the single parent.  You are doing the work of two and mostly with less money.  Bills don't half when there's only one parent.  Holidays are difficult and can be more expensive.  You are regularly vilified in the press and by Government.  Emotionally the strain can leave a single parent exhausted.  You are always the one cooking, washing up and doing all the chores. 

I'm not saying I never get help.  I have some lovely friends and neighbours who will babysit occasionally and my folks are often down to help out too.  But there isn't that other person there who you can turn to and say guess what so-and-so's done now.  Or someone to cook while you give the kids a bath.  Or someone just to give you a hug and say things will be fine.  And weekends become scary as venturing out means being among apparently happy families. 

But it's not all bad.  I have a wonderful bright daughter to nourish and enjoy.  I am building a special bond with her that I hope will make us much closer and bring about more mutual respect.  We may not have much, but we have each other which is worth more than any income or holidays and cars.  If Robin could miraculously come back to us we would be whole and as perfect as a family gets, but as he can't I will continue to bring up our daughter the best way I can and we will continue to find our own version of perfect - and even though we may be an inconvenience to the Government (who think I should have found a new partner by now) we will be happy being us and we will do the best we can at living because that's all we can do.

Big love to all the single parents out there!  Keep strong.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Making Decisions

Sometimes it's the small things that are the most difficult.

I have made some pretty big decisions since Robin died.  The decision to move away from family and my job for example.  But in many ways those things are easier than the small things - like working out the best way to discipline a toddler.  Or what to cook for dinner.  Or even what to wear.

I think I've always struggled a little with these small decisions, but when you were used to having a second opinion on pretty much everything (even if it only made you realise your own idea was best), when that is taken away it leaves you feeling truly lost.  A lot of the time it has meant some things just didn't happen because there was no one to make a decision.  If I hadn't been pregnant, and hadn't had to take care of myself and Sophie I often think I would have not bothered with a lot of things - like eating or getting up even.  But thankfully I did have Sophie and that has helped a huge amount because I have had that reason to live, to eat, to make decisions.

It's not that I can't make decisions - I must have made thousands of the sort where you are actually conscious of deciding since that fateful day in 2005.  What to call my company, which web provider/energy company/phone and broadband package to chose.  Along with what school to apply for, which house to buy, where to go on holiday.  (And the one I haven't had much success with - who to date!).  In all these things I have made my decisions and done my best at that time.  But what I would have given to have that valued second opinion from Robin - to be able to speak to him - not just imagine what he might think.  That is a huge part of what I miss.  A burden shared.  Someone else to share the blame (lets face it) when things don't work out quite as planned! 

It's tough having to be the one that's in charge - the grown up - the boss of my own life.  I know I have family and friends I can talk things through with - and don't get me wrong - their advice and counsel has been very important over the years.  Maybe that has replaced what I had with Robin - mostly.  It's easier to research online these days, and there's usually a mum friend who's been there with any child-related problem I find - but that's not quite the whole story.  I'm not sure it works quite as well unless the person helping make any decision is very close; intimately knows you and what makes you tick.  They need to know all the nuances of your behaviour, signs of stress or excitement or of just needing a hug.  That only comes from a partner I think.  That has been missing in my life for 8 and a half years now.

However, these days I am perhaps getting a little better at making those choices.  I have taught myself to rely on just me again.  Learned to stand alone.  But I don't always get things right and that's why I will look forward to the day when I might again have a trusted special someone there to be my sounding wall and that all important second opinion.